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Keith Armstrong

outside your lonely window


My God,

we are

indeed lucky,

in this great and ancient city,

to have,

in our presence,

such a poet as you.


it even seems

that you

are bigger than us,

with your huge dome


our history.

Such an immense

and supreme


larger than the space

in Grainger Market.

And, when it comes to writing up our story,

we, of course,

must turn to you,

with your flawless technique

and structured craft,

turn to you

in our peasant



though we have folk songs,

they cannot do justice

to the language,

like you

above all,



next time,

before we break

into song,

we should ask you

to subject our voices

to your analysis.

But then

I don’t think,

in your padded academic tower,

that you can hear us all


in the trees,


your lonely window.

Keith Armstrong was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, where he has worked as a community worker, poet, librarian and publisher. He is coordinator of the Northern Voices Community Projects creative writing and community publishing enterprise. He was awarded a doctorate in 2007 for his work on Newcastle writer Jack Common at the University of Durham where he received a BA Honours Degree in Sociology in 1995 and Masters Degree in 1998 for his studies on culture in the North East of England. His poetry has been extensively published in magazines such as the New Statesman and Poetry Review as well as in the collections Splinters (2011) and The Month of the Asparagus (2011) and broadcast on radio & TV. He has performed his poetry throughout Britain and abroad. In his youth, he travelled to Paris and he has been making international cultural pilgrimages ever since.

For Robert My Good Friend



was the word I was looking for

down the lanes of Temple Bar

between the tourist spots

and the poetry slots of all Ireland.

And at last I found it

in Charlie St George’s bar

clashing glasses of Guinness with you

Robert my good friend,

blessing the magical days

when we were born

to share our dribbling verses,

our hard-earned lines,

between ourselves

but above all with others

of our gentle persuasion

whether here in Limerick’s rain-soaked lanes

with Richard Harris

or in Newcastle’s Bridge Hotel

with William Blake

over the cobbles of our dreams

to airport lounges

and soaring planes,

just anywhere at all

to fly our poems.

For this I thank you Robert,

for staying with me,

for offering strong friendship

when all the world is falling apart around us.

Let us celebrate love again

in a pint of plain

and poetry in our memorable smiles

this day by the glorious Shannon

and in the sunlight of the River Tyne.

Poor Doors
Sheriff Stars

thistles stretch their prickly arms afar

Black Triangle
bedroom tax
Disrupt and Upset

Tell Me Lies About Northumberland

(In honour of Adrian Mitchell)


Say this land is ours,

these pipe tunes do not cry.

The birds all sing in dialect,

old miners breathe like dukes.


Tell me lies about Northumberland.


Tell me it isn’t feudal,

that castles were built for us.

We never touch the forelock,

bend to scrape up dust.


Tell me lies about Northumberland.


Your pretty girls don’t stink of slaughter,

your eyes don’t blur with myth.

You’re as equal as a duchess,

saints never smell of piss.


Tell me lies about Northumberland.


Your roots are in this valley,

you were never from doon south.

You never hide your birthplace,

you’re a real poet of the north.


Tell me lies about Northumberland.


The churches are not crumbling,

the congregations glow with hope.

We are different from the foreigner,

our poetry rhymes with wine.


Tell me lies about Northumberland.


There is no landed gentry,

no homes locals can’t afford.

There’s no army on the moors,

the Romans freed us all.


Tell me lies about Northumberland.

Tell me lies about Northumberland.


‘The Garden’ is our children’s,

Hotspur spurs us on.

The seagulls are not soaked in oil,

the cows are not diseased.


Tell me lies about Northumberland.


This Kingdom is United,

‘Culture’ is our God.

Everyone’s a Basil Bunting freak,

there’s music everywhere.


Tell me lies about Northumberland.


We will have our independence,

we’ll get the Gospels back.

We live off museums and tourists,

we don’t need boats or trades.


Tell me lies about Northumberland.


We’re in charge of our own futures,

we have north east citizens here.

In this autonomous republic,

we’re free as dicky birds.


So shut your eyes.


And tell me lies


about Northumberland.

bedroom tax
Sheriff Stars

thistles stretch their prickly arms afar

Black Triangle
Disrupt and Upset

Militant Thistles

prickling the politics of "permanent austerity"

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